Instagram has started forcing users to enter their date of birth before being allowed to use the app. The change comes over eight months after Instagram announced its plans to make age verification mandatory on its platform and started prompting users to fill in their birthday details. The prime purpose of the update is to restrict access for kids below the age of 13. Instagram will also be able to use the given date of birth to offer better targeted ads to users.
To obtain the date of birth, Instagram is showing a screen before allowing access to its content. It asks users to enter their date of birth and has no option to bypass.
"Before you can continue using Instagram, you need to provide your birthday, even if this account is for something like a business or pet," the screen prompt reads. "This helps us protect younger people in our community. We'll also use your birthday to help personalise your experience, including ads. It won't be part of your public profile."
Several users who have not yet provided their date of birth on Instagram have started receiving the new prompt. A number of them have taken to Twitter and complained about Instagram's move to forcefully ask for their birth date.
Instagram initially started asking for age verification as an optional feature in 2019. The platform last year made it mandatory to provide date of birth details and announced the roll out of prompts to let users fill in the information in the midst of looking at the photos and videos in their feed or uploading a new content for their followers. However, up until now, the Instagram app was accessible to users who did not provide their details and skipped the earlier prompts.
Gadgets 360 reached out to Meta for a comment on the update and a company spokesperson responded saying the move was to help curb underage use of Instagram.
"We've been clear that we want to do more to create safe and more age-appropriate experiences for young people. To do that we need to know how old people are on Instagram," the Meta spokesperson said in a prepared statement emailed to Gadgets 360. "We're continuing to ask people to share their birthday or age with us if they haven't before, and are making this a requirement because this information is necessary to develop new features to protect young people, help provide teens with age appropriate experiences, and to help curb underage use of our platform."
Some young users are, of course, likely to be able to bypass restrictions by giving their fake birth date details. However, Instagram — and Facebook — both have an artificial intelligence (AI) backed system in place to detect accurate age of its users.
"We look at things like people wishing you a happy birthday and the age written in those messages, for example, 'Happy 21st Bday!' or 'Happy Quinceañera.' We also look at the age you shared with us on Facebook and apply it to our other apps where you have linked your accounts and vice versa — so if you share your birthday with us on Facebook, we'll use the same for your linked account on Instagram," the social networking giant writes on its site to explain its birthday detection technology.
Last year, Facebook and Instagram parent Meta was found to be working on a kids-focussed version of the Instagram app that could be called Instagram for Kids. It was a result of generating growing interest from young users and facing strong criticism from government bodies including the US Congress for increasing Instagram's use among kids. Advocacy groups and authorities including the US State Attorneys General urged the company to drop its plans. As a result of the outrage, it finally paused the development of the app in September.
Nevertheless, Meta has not yet completely scrapped its plans for developing Instagram for Kids — though it was urged to do so by various religious leaders in February.
The plan with restricting access for kids through the latest development could eventually help Instagram to redirect its young audience to the new app that we may see in the coming future. Meta would also be able to generate more revenue by serving targeted ads after getting the date of birth of its users.